Here is my experience with a COVID-19 rapid antigen test, at home, purchased from Switch Health as an Aeroplan member.
When Switch Health’s partnership with Air Canada was announced last October, many travellers rushed to buy a Covid-19 test kit or kits. I was one of those travellers.
The concept is economical (especially the rapid antigen test) for Aeroplan members who receive a preferred rate and earn between 500 and 1,000 points for each kit purchased.
It is convenient because it is performed at home and the results are revealed within an hour.
Three types of COVID-19 tests available
Switch Health offers three types of COVID-19 home tests. Two meet the requirements for return to Canada. These are the molecular tests:
Travellers can therefore leave with the kit in their suitcase and use it up to 72 hours before their scheduled return.
However, with the ability to use free testing services at Walgreens and CVS pharmacies, as well as Curative in the U.S. (NAAT testing), the kits are more appropriate for travel outside North America. Please note that the RT-LAMP tests are currently sold out, but that it is possible to register on a waiting list. UPDATE: As of December 12, 2021, RP-LAMP tests can be ordered again.
The latest home self-test, the Rapid Antigen, is used primarily by Canadians to enter the United States. Since the kit contains two tests, unlike the RT-LAMP and RT-PCR which have only one, they can be used by two different people.
This means that each test costs about $40 per person.
Order a COVID-19 test with Switch Health
I ordered the COVID-19 rapid antigen test kit through the link in my colleague Caroline’s article. Three days later, I received the little blue box through Purolator, free standard shipping.
Received in October, to be used at the end of November.
It is suggested to order it one week in advance but after checking with the company on the phone, the antigen test is valid for twelve months.
So why take the risk of it being out of stock?
Steps to follow
The first step is to create an account on Switch Health’s ASMO portal and enter your personal information such as your health care number.
You can also register by scanning the QR code found under the lid of the open box.
You can then add as many people as you want to this account; they will be designated as “dependents”, will take the same type of test as yours but with a different QR code. They may be adults or children.
Read the instructions
Then take the time to read the instructions carefully. You know, that fine print. This will make it easier for you and avoid mistakes.
- you have your tablet or phone well charged and a stable internet connection. Switch Health does not work with a computer
- you have about an hour. And it could be more if there are small glitches. I’ll broach the subject at the end of the article.
- A hole in the box module allows you to insert the vial during the curettage with the swab. No need to hold it with the other hand or to be assisted.
- The right QR code must be associated with the right person and the right box. Otherwise, the test would not be recognized by the nurse during the scan.
Contents of the box
You have placed the items in front of you:
- device out of the envelope,
- flask containing a liquid and its lid.
You then placed the QR code label in the space provided on the device.
Finally, you blew your nose and washed your hands.
Login with your ASMO account
Once in your account, you press the tab on the left, “home test” and select the one you received.
This will be followed by a series of questions regarding:
- the type of test
- the time and IT equipment required (with camera, compatible browser, etc.)
- government-issued photo identification (driver’s license, health insurance card ) on hand
- the name of the person being tested from among those you have registered
Be aware that for each person, the process will have to be repeated from the beginning. The nurse cannot be asked to do this for all the people registered on your account.
Once the questions are answered, you will be asked to activate your kit which will take you to a waiting room for the telehealth session with a nurse.
We’ll tell you how many people are before you, but in both cases, my sister’s and mine, the wait was less than five minutes.
- the nurse appears on the screen
- requests to see your identification
- requests to scan the QR code
- provides step-by-step instructions. (remove the lid of the vial and place it in the space provided, remove the swab from its packaging, proceed in each nostril only a few centimetres deep, insert the swab into the vial etc.).
I will leave it to the nursing staff to inform you of the correct course of action to take.
This will guide you to the point where the device does its job. The nurse will then leave you and you will have to wait 15 minutes.
The COVID-19 test result
After this waiting period, the test result will appear on the device as a small line or two. Like a pregnancy test.
You will receive an email notifying you to upload the photo of this result. Instructions will guide you through the process.
Within an hour, you will be notified to return to the ASMO portal and this time click on the “Patient Tests” tab. Your name and those of your “dependents” will appear.
You will have the choice to view, download or print the result in PDF.
In case of glitches
It doesn’t happen often but it can happen. The nurse and her supervisor were unable to scan one of the two QR codes contained in the box. Probably defective.
We managed to do it by other means, but you should know that the process took two and a half hours rather than one hour. Switch devices, close and open sessions three times, phone calls etc.
But I would like to point out that the service is in place 24/7. I know that, since I was done on a Saturday night at 12:15.
Supervisors will contact you within 10 minutes and have several cards up their sleeves. However, it is better to speak English.
Switch Health’s Covid-19 self-tests are an interesting alternative to what is available in clinics, at the drive-thru or at the airport. They are less expensive – at least for the antigen – and have the advantage of being made at home or from your hotel room, which will appeal to travellers who live far from urban areas.
However, a plan B is still in order and you must be prepared to put in the time the process will require.